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Shale Boom Has Clean Harbors Cleaning Up

Clean HarborsHazardous waste management firm Clean Harbors has boosted the number of funds investing in its business by 15 percent over the last quarter, off the back of the US shale oil and gas boom.

Clean Harbors lured 43 mutual funds to invest over the last quarter, raising its total number of funds to 460 – a high number relative to its $3.3 billion market value, Reuters reports.

The company controls about 70 percent of North American commercial incineration capacity and about a fifth of the landfills that can accept hazardous material, placing it above competitors such as Veolia.

But Clean Harbors’ share price has fallen 8 percent in the year to date, and the company missed analyst expectations in its last quarter. Reuters describes this as a result of downturns in its oil-recycling business, and the company’s attempts to integrate recently acquired, commodities-sensitive units.

In January 2013, Clean Harbors acquired Safety-Kleen, a provider of parts cleaning and environmental services and the largest re-refiner and recycler of used oil in North America.

The falling share price is one reason funds are buying, and Clean Harbors also enjoys wide-ranging expertise and high barriers to entry.

Engineering News-Record ranked Clean Harbors as 10th in its Top 200 Environmental Firms list, ranked by revenues, with $1.177 bn, behind such companies as CH2M Hill and URS Corp.

The shale gas and oil boom has created large amounts of chemical wastes, including battery acids, wastewater and sludge.

The waste from shale gas drilling present unique environmental concerns. For example, drill cuttings are very wet and heavy, impacting waste stability, and the final particles in drill cuttings can clog landfill’s leachate collection systems. Drill cuttings are inorganic so can also reduce a landfill’s gas generation capabilities.

US demand for water treatment chemicals will rise 3.2 percent per year to reach $6.7 billion in 2017, an increase driven by growth in the oil, gas and mining industries and a rebound in manufacturing production, according to a study by the Freedonia Group.

Stricter regulations, the explosive growth of new hydraulic fracturing shale oil and gas wells and limited available water resources are also driving the popularity of centralized wastewater management in North America.

Takeaway: Clean Harbors is poised to continue reaping the benefits from the US shale oil and gas boom, given the industry’s particular waste disposal demands.

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